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Sentinel Copper Mine, Zambia


Sentinel copper mine is located approximately 150km west of Solwezi in north-west Zambia. The mine is being developed by First Quantum Minerals, through its subsidiary KALUMBILA Minerals Limited (KML), as part of its Trident project.

Construction works at the Sentinel mine commenced shortly after approval for construction was granted in May 2012 and were completed in 2014. The mine started production in February 2015, while commercial production is expected to start in the third quarter of 2015.

The mine is expected to produce approximately between 280,000t and 300,000t of copper a year. The mine life is expected to be more than 15 years, with the potential to extend it further. The total cost of the project is $2bn, which also includes the cost of adding a nickel processing plant at the Enterprise mine. The project generated approximately 2,000 jobs.

Trident project
The Trident project comprises the Sentinel copper mine, Enterprise nickel mine and other mining deposits. It is situated approximately 140km west of the town of Solwezi and 150km from the Kansanshi mine in northern Zambia, and features five large prospecting licences covering approximately 2,300km². First Quantum acquired the project through the purchase of Kiwara in January 2010 for approximately $279m.
Mining licenses for the Trident project were granted in April 2011. The Enterprise mine is expected to be commissioned in 2015. It is estimated to contain resources of 40.1 million tonnes graded at 1.07% Ni and reserves of 32.7 million tonnes graded at 1.10% Ni.

Sentinel mine geology and mineralisation
The Sentinel copper mine is situated on the southern portion of the Trident copper project area. The Sentinel prospect is a stratabound, sediment hosted copper-nickel-cobalt deposit with more than 11km of strike length.

Base metal mineralisation is hosted in a carbonaceous phyllite, a sericite-quartz rock. The Sentinel phyllite hosts the mineralisation and is structurally bound by a large recumbent fold. The copper mineralisation occurs principally as chalcopyrite hosted in a metasedimentary carbonaceous phyllite.

Sentinel mine reserves
The Sentinel mine, as of December 2014, was estimated to hold 822 million tonnes of ore (grading 0.50g/t Cu) in proven reserves and 166.2 million tonnes of ore (grading 0.51g/t Cu) in probable reserves.
The measured and indicated resources were estimated to be 744.5 million tonnes graded at 0.56g/t Cu, while the inferred resources were estimated to be 279.3 million tonnes graded at 0.47g/t Cu.

Mining and processing
Conventional mining and shovel method is employed to extract the ore from the Sentinel copper mine. The copper treatment plant has a throughput capacity of 55 million tonnes a year of ore at an average grade of 0.5%.

The ore is crushed in-pit using three ThyssenKrupp KB 63-89 semi-mobile crushers and delivered to a crushed ore stockpile with a capacity of 80,000t. It is loaded into excavators and hauled by trucks, for milling at two process trains, each comprising a 28MW SAG mill and a 22MW ball mill, to produce a final grind of 80%.

A secondary crushing circuit, comprising two large cone crushers and a pebble crusher to crush the pebbles ejected from the SAG mills, is also installed.

The crushed ore goes through four rougher-scavenger flotation circuits followed by three stages of cleaning to recover 90% of the concentrate containing approximately 24% copper. Tailings are thickened before discharge to the tailings storage facility (TSF), located approximately 10km north of the copper mine.

The produced concentrates are further treated at a common smelter constructed near the Kansanshi mine for both Sentinel and Kansanshi ores.

Infrastructure at Sentinel
Five substations are constructed at the processing plant. Power is supplied by Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) through 330kV power transmission lines from Lumwana-Kalumbila-Lusaka West.

Water supply for the processing plant comes from the Chisola River dam. The 30m-high Musangehzi dam protects the mining operations from ingress, as the pit is located on the river bed.

A 30km-long main access road connecting the mine with Solwezi road, in addition to access roads to the TSF, Chisolo dam and other maintenance roads have also been constructed.

The mining fleet comprises Caterpillar Bucyrus 7495HR 57m³ rope shovels, three PCX5500 loaders, 36 trucks of the 325t class and electric hydraulic excavators, as well as other backup and ancillary equipment.

FLSmidth was awarded a $50m contract, in June 2011, for supplying two SAG mills and two ball mills for the Sentinel mine. Konecranes supplied a SMT SMARTON crane and two CXTD cranes for the project.

ACTOM Power Transformers was awarded an R17m ($1.7m approximately) contract in April 2013, to supply six 20/25 MVA and two 10 MVA customised transformers for the copper mine project.

CSA Global (UK) was commissioned to undertake a mineral resource estimate for the Sentinel copper deposit in 2012.

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